Collaboration in the Classroom

Meichen Dong

During her first year as a faculty member at Valparaiso University, Meichen Dong, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, has navigated various challenges of teaching during a global pandemic while integrating herself into the College of Business.

“The fall was quite hectic as it was my first semester teaching and we all had to learn to adapt to the pandemic,” Professor Dong says. “It was more difficult to build relationships with students and gauge their understanding or feedback due to wearing face coverings. As the semester went on, students became more comfortable and active with their feedback, which made those connections easier to establish.”

Professor Dong chose to teach marketing at Valpo because of the uplifting community of students and faculty as well as its location.

“My overall impression was that Valpo was a good place to be,” Professor Dong says. “I’m from a cold region in China, so Northwest Indiana felt like home. The proximity to Chicago also gives me the opportunity to explore new cultures and connect with the business community of a large city.”

“When I interviewed, it was clear the College of Business was supportive of junior faculty members and encouraging of all students,” Professor Dong says. “Dean Niclas Erhardt has fostered mentorship opportunities with senior faculty to learn about effective teaching methods, understand the College and its students better, and encourage cross-course collaboration.”

Professor Dong took the call for collaboration to heart and devised class projects with Coleen Wilder, Ph.D., associate professor of management, to help local businesses. Currently, Professor Dong’s classes are completing two consulting projects with a local real estate agent and Valparaiso Events.

“The goal of these projects is to improve marketing strategy in the classroom and community,” Professor Dong says. “One project focuses on digital promotion and finding fresh ideas to promote a real estate agent. The other is a collaboration with the business practicum class to support the city’s online farmers’ market. The other class is developing a survey to gauge consumers’ willingness to purchase online, and then our class will analyze their data and present strategies to market the event to local customers.”

Professor Dong hopes to continue partnerships in the community through her course offerings. “This is a mutually beneficial opportunity for students to have real experience consulting and creating market strategies and for local business to have curated strategy development. This partnership is our way to give back to the community.”

As Professor Dong continues to provide opportunities for her students to develop their marketing skills, she is also pursuing her own research interests. Her current research covers many facets of word-of-mouth advertising. She examines concepts from how consumers make a decision based on online reviews to how social media influencing has shifted from material purchases (i.e., tangible products) to experiential purchasing (e.g., travel or restaurants).

Professor Dong’s first year of teaching may be different than any other, but she has already demonstrated the College of Business’ core values as she works to cultivate the next generation of values-based marketers.